The magical thing about historical fiction is the way it truly makes you feel like you’re experiencing life in another era. The best historical fiction authors are able to combine fictional characters with real settings and events in a way that makes it all feel visceral and current.
What do we mean by best historical fiction authors?
With countless amazing writers working in this genre, we went with the following criteria for our list:
- Does the author primarily write historical fiction, or do they write in numerous genres?
- Has the author published at least three works of historical fiction?
- Are the author’s historical novels award-winning and/or critically acclaimed and/or commercially successful?
- Are they still currently publishing new work?
Here are our picks for 50 of the best historical fiction authors writing today, in alphabetical order.
Kate Alcott is the literary pseudonym for journalist Patricia O’Brien. Her historical novels include The Dressmaker, The Daring Ladies of Lowell, and A Touch of Stardust.
Jean M. Auel
Jean M. Auel is an American writer best known for her novels about people living in prehistoric eras. Her works include The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Mammoth Hunters, and The Land of Painted Caves.
Sebastian Barry is an Irish playwright and novelist. His historical novels include Annie Dunne, A Long Long Way, and Days Without End.
Marie Benedict is an American author of historical fiction. Her notable works include The Other Einstein, Carnegie’s Maid, and The Only Woman in the Room.
Melanie Benjamin a pseudonym for the writer Melanie Hauser. Her historical novels include Alice I Have Been, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb and The Aviator’s Wife.
Jessica Brockmole is the American author of historical novels including Letters from Skye, At the Edge of Summer, and Woman Enters Left.
Geraldine Brooks is an Australian American journalist and novelist. Her historical fiction includes March, The People of the Book, and The Secret Chord.
Elizabeth Chadwick is a British author of historical novels, including The Scarlet Lion, The Summer Queen, and The Winter Crown.
Tracy Chevalier is an American-British historical novelist. Her historical novels include Girl With A Pearl Earring, At the Edge of the Orchard, and New Boy.
Bernard Cornwell is the English author best known for his novels about Richard Sharpe, beginning with Sharpe’s Rifles. Two of his other series are The Warlord Chronicles and The Saxon Chronicle Stories.
Emma Donoghue is an Irish Canadian author. Her works of historical fiction include The Wonder and Slammerkin.
Sarah Dunant is a British author whose works of historical fiction include The Birth of Venus, In the Company of the Courtesan, and Sacred Hearts.
Esi Edugyan is the Canadian author of historical novels including The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, Half Blood Blues, and Washington Black.
Ken Follett is a British author of historical fiction including Fall of Giants, Winter of the World, and World Without End.
Margaret George is an American author of historical novels including Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles, The Memoirs of Cleopatra, and Elizabeth I.
Philippa Gregory is a British historian and author. Her works of historical fiction include The Other Boleyn Girl, The White Queen, and The Constant Princess.
Sara Gruen is a Canadian-American writer of historical fiction including Water for Elephants, At the Water’s Edge and Ape House.
Sandra Gulland is an American-born Canadian writer of historical novels including The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe and The Shadow Queen.
Conn Iggulden is a British author of non-fiction and historical fiction. His historical fiction debut was The Gates of Rome, the first in what would become his five-part Emperor series about the life of Julius Caesar.
Jeanne Kalogridis is an American author of historical novels including The Borgia Bride, The Devil’s Queen: A Novel of Catherine de’Medici, and The Orphan of Florence.
Susanna Kearsley is a Canadian author and former museum curator, whose historical novels include The Winter Sea, A Desperate Fortune, and Bellewether.
Barbara Kingsolver is an American author of historical novels including The Bean Trees, The Poisonwood Bible, The Lacuna, and Unsheltered.
Hilary Mantel is an English writer whose historical novels include Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, and A Place of Greater Safety.
Ami McKay is a Canadian author of historical fiction including The Birth House, The Virgin Cure, and The Witches of New York.
Paula McLain is an American author of historical fiction including The Paris Wife, Love and Ruin, and Circling the Sun.
Rohinton Mistry is an Indian-born Canadian author of historical novels including Such A Long Journey and A Fine Balance.
Toni Morrison is an American writer and icon, whose novels of historical fiction include The Bluest Eye, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, and A Mercy.
Michael Ondaatje is a Sri Lanka–born Canadian writer whose historical novels include In the Skin of a Lion, The English Patient, Anil’s Ghost, and Warlight.
Kate Quinn is an American author whose works of historical fiction include The Alice Network, Mistress of Rome and The Serpent and the Pearl.
Edward Rutherfurd is a pen name for the English author Francis Edward Wintle. As Rutherford, his works of historical fiction include London: The Novel, New York: The Novel, and Paris: The Novel.
Lisa See is an American author whose historical novels include Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Shanghai Girls, and The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.
Eve Stachniak is a Polish-Canadian author whose works of historical fiction include The Chosen Maiden, The Winter Palace, and Empress of the Night.
Indu Sundaresan is an Indian American writer whose works of historical fiction include The Twentieth Wife, The Feast of Roses, and Shadow Princess.
Lalita Tademy is an American author, whose historical novels include Cane River, Red River and Citizens Creek.
Colm Tóibín is an Irish writer whose historical novels include Brooklyn, and The Testament of Mary.
Amor Towles is an American writer of historical fiction including Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow.
Guy Vanderhaeghe is a Canadian writer whose historical novels include The Englishman’s Boy, The Last Crossing, and A Good Man.
Sarah Waters is a Welsh writer whose historical novels include Fingersmith, Tipping the Velvet, and The Paying Guests.
Alison Weir is a British historian and novelist whose historical novels include Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey, The Marriage Game: A Novel of Elizabeth I, and Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession.
Beatriz Williams is an American writer whose historical novels include Along the Infinite Sea, A Certain Age, and The Summer Wives.
Kate Williams is a British historian and author, whose works of historical fiction include The Storms of War and The Edge of the Fall.
bonus! best Historical Fiction Authors: emerging
We can’t wait to see what these rising stars of historical fiction will write next!
LaShonda Katrice Barnett, author of Jam on the Vine
Tracy Borman, author of The King’s Witch
Yangsze Choo, author of The Ghost Bride
Tara Conklin, author of The House Girl
E.C. Fremantle, author of The Poison Bed
Vivien Shotwell, author of Vienna Nocturne
Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing
Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko
Kate Worsley, author of She Rises
Can’t get enough historical fiction? We’re here to help! Check out more Book Riot content on historical fiction.